While suicide rates in New Jersey are among the lowest in the nation, suicide remains a significant cause of preventable mortality. In New Jersey in 2000, there were 600 suicides -- nearly twice the number of homicides in the same time period. It is estimated that fewer than 25% of suicide attempts are reported and more than 40% of suicide attempts by minors are second or subsequent attempts.
We know that all schools in the state have had to deal with students who attempt suicide. Unfortunately, a great many schools may eventually face the tragedy of the suicide of a student. There are few events in the life of a school that are more painful or potentially disruptive than a student suicide. Young people are especially reactive when the victim is a peer, and "contagion" and other maladaptive coping responses are more common in adolescents and young adults.
Suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24; only accidents and homicides occur more frequently. Firearms remain the most commonly used suicide method among youth, regardless of race or gender. Research has shown that most adolescent suicides occur in the afternoon or early evening and in the teen's home.
The New Jersey Department of Health supported the printing and distribution of "Managing Sudden Traumatic Loss in the Schools" to more than 13,000 schools and communities in the state. Planning ahead, recognizing resources, and tapping into the expertise of both the mental health and school systems form the foundation for effective response to sudden, violent death in the school community. The strategies to build on that foundation and create interventions that are both grounded in theory yet meet the practical needs of diverse schools is outlined in the manual. The second edition updates some of the original material with new research findings and expands content to reflect the range of traumatic deaths with which schools appear to be confronted.
The Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition was formed in 1995 as a result of several traumatic events and suicides in which took place in Mercer County. The Coalition, which is comprised of various sectors of the community, provides a coordinated response to traumatic loss incidents that occur in the community. It seeks to address the prevention of destructive behaviors of Mercer County adolescents and their families. Specific events are suicides, homicides, motor vehicle crashes, natural or man made disasters, including terrorist attacks. Some of the agencies the Coalition works with are all Mercer County district schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, law enforcement, clergy, emergency relief and government agencies. The Coalition has been available for continuing training for school personnel on managing traumatic loss in the community. A key project component focuses on assisting schools in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
The Traumatic Loss Coalition has been identified as a needed infrastructure in New Jersey communities to address crisis intervention. It has been replicated in all 21 New Jersey counties and coordinated by The Department of Children and Families.
The Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth (TLC) is dedicated to excellence in suicide prevention and in providing a collaborative and coordinated mental health response to a global or community crisis affecting our school aged youth. Individuals seeking training, information and technical assistance can contact the Traumatic Loss Coalitions at 732-235-2810.
Individuals seeking immediate crisis assistance should call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or their local Traumatic Loss Coalition which can be found at http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/tlc/